BOSTON - No, we're not picking Derek Jeter for the American League MVP.
Of the universe, maybe. But for the sake of this season's MLB awards, there's no numbers calibration, no analytical framework, to effectively factor in the gravitational pull of Jeter's farewell tour.
Plus, we'd look pretty silly voting for a .253 hitter on a Yankees' team that finished 15 games out of first place in the American League East.
Jeter had his chance, and deservedly so, back in 2006, when he somehow placed second to the Twins' Justin Morneau. He never got any closer than that during his 20-year playing career.
But enough about Jeter. For now, anyway. With the regular season wrapping up Sunday, and the ballots cast, let's take a look at who should be taking home the trophies a little more than a month from now when the awards are announced in November.
Wait, what? After Trout's two superhuman seasons, when he finished runner-up to Miguel Cabrera both times, now we pick him for the award? When Trout was just really, really, really good? Yep. That's what we're saying. Heading into the final weekend, Trout's batting average is more than 30 points lower than last season and his on-base percentage more than 50 off that pace. Even his WAR is down a full two points, to 8.0. But he's hit for more power, with a career-high 35 home runs, his .563 slugging percentage is up and he also led the AL with 114 runs scored, not to mention 110 RBIs. All that for a resurgent Angels team that wound up running away with the AL West. Cabrera will be up there again on the ballot, along with the Indians' Michael Brantley and the Orioles' Adam Jones, but this is finally Trout's year.
McCutchen gets the nod over the Nationals' Anthony Rendon, with Giancarlo Stanton deserving to be in this conversation as well. Unfortunately for Stanton, his season was cut short on Sept. 11 when the Brewers' Mike Fiers hit him in the face with a fastball, a scary incident that derailed his chances to finish strong over the final two weeks. McCutchen earns his back-to-back MVP not only on the strength of his balanced offensive numbers -- .314/.409/.545 - but he remains the engine of a Pirates team that rebounded from eight games under .500 on May 1 to push for the NL Central title by the end of September. Both McCutchen and Rendon have performed superbly for contenders, with talented pieces around them, but it's tough to imagine the Pirates having the same success without McCutchen at their core.
AL CY YOUNG
Whoa. This is a tight one. After we assumed Felix Hernandez would cruise to a second Cy this season, Kluber emerged to make this is a serious race - and in our eyes, take the trophy. Not only did he put up excellent numbers as the Indians ace, but the durability to go along with it in barely edging King Felix. And minus a 20-game winner this year - or even a 19 -- we don't have to get dragged into the whole pitcher-win debate. Kluber tied Max Scherzer (18) in that category and was consistently great across the board, with a 2.44 ERA , 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.9 walks/9. What separates Kluber is his fielding-independent pitching numbers, or FIP, which at 2.35 led the AL. Kluber gets points for making 34 starts and logging 235 2/3 innings, which is even more impressive these days with pitching injuries plaguing the sport.
NL CY YOUNG
As opposed to the AL, this is a slam dunk. Two-handed. On a seven-foot rim. Not much of an explanation needed here. We're all familiar with Kershaw's spectacular work. But there is space to fill, so let's take a glance at a few of the numbers: 21-3, 1.77 ERA, 10.85 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.41 BB/9. He's also held opponents to a .196 BA with a 0.86 WHIP. Oh, and let's not forget the June 19 no-hitter against the Rockies. Kershaw has been as dominant as you can get, for either league, leaving him without much competition. Johnny Cueto is next closest in ERA (2.29), leads both leagues with 235 2/3 innings and is tied with Stephen Strasburg for second in strikeouts (235). Adam Wainwright is 20-9. But nobody has the total package like Kershaw, so we anticipate a runaway here.
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
The Orioles play in the heavyweight AL East, but don't spend as freely as the deep-pocketed Yankees or Red Sox, and we know Showalter uses that financial chip on his shoulder as motivation. It's not like Baltimore is Tampa Bay, but there are limitations, and Showalter also had to deal with a flurry of big injuries - losing a pair of All-Stars, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, for the season. Showalter always does a great job of doing more with less, finding the players that fit for him. He's a big reason why the Orioles won the division, which should earn him a third MOY award.
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Sometimes winning when you're supposed to is the hardest job in baseball. Just ask Joe Girardi, who won this award with the Marlins in '06 but probably never will again as long as he's managing the Yankees. The challenge is the same for Mattingly, who has the responsibility of making sure a $200-million payroll performs like one - regardless of injuries or egos clashing. Mattingly has balanced both this season, containing the volatile Yasiel Puig and keeping Hanley Ramirez relatively happy in his walk year. He's guided the Dodgers to a second straight AL West title, and after finishing runner-up for MOY last year, he deserves the trophy this time.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
This race may have been interesting if Masahiro Tanaka didn't miss six weeks with an elbow tear, but now Abreu is the obvious choice after a monster offensive year. Abreu had a slash line of .315/.379/.576 with 35 homers and 105 RBIs, huge numbers that will put him among the top 10 for MVP as well. Abreu is 27, an age that tends to rub some voters the wrong way, especially after already having a career in Cuba. But that shouldn't preclude him from getting an award he's eligible for.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Fair or not, often these awards come down to how a player finishes the year, not starts it. The Reds' Billy Hamilton had the preseason hype, batted leadoff, played a great defensive centerfield and performed to a level that could get him the award in a weak year -- .253/.295/.358 with eight triples and 56 stolen bases. But he's also cratered in the second half while deGrom has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. His 2.63 ERA and 9.24 strikeouts per nine innings (in 22 starts) are enough to get voters attention, even though the Mets shut him down after only 140 1/3 innings, a total that will work against him.